Using RNA as a tool to modify lipid nanoparticles
Wilner, Samantha E.
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Lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) provide an attractive option for therapeutic applications because they can self-assemble and carry a diverse set of cargoes ranging from hydrophobic drugs to small interfering RNA (siRNA). Liposomes and micelles represent two classes of LNPs that have been developed for medicinal purposes; however, active targeting of LNPs to specific tissues and LNP stability in vivo remain significant challenges. We have exploited the structural characteristics and targeting ability of nucleic acids to address these obstacles.;Specifically, we have introduced short nucleic acid targeting species, called aptamers, to the surface of stable nucleic acid lipid particles (SNALPs), a subset of liposomes used in siRNA delivery. In this manner, we have actively targeted SNALPs to cancer cells that overexpress the transferrin receptor (TfR). HeLa cells expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) were treated with SNALPs bearing an antiTfR aptamer (C2) that was identified in our lab. C2-conjugated SNALPs showed increased levels of uptake by cells by flow cytometry. More importantly, the enhanced uptake by C2-conjugated SNALPs translated to an increased level of gene knockdown when SNALPs were loaded with anti-EGFP siRNA or anti-Lamin NC siRNA. Expression of EGFP and Lamin NC decreased, respectively. These preliminary studies illustrate that aptamer-conjugated SNALPs can be designed to knock down both endogenous and exogenous genes in cancer cells with high specificity.;We have also used nucleic acids to stabilize lipid micelles by introducing short quadruplex forming oligonucleotide sequences at the lipid headgroup. Micelle formation was confirmed via dynamic light scattering, transmission electron microscopy, and small angle X-ray scattering. Micelle stability was assessed using NMR and by a FRET-based assay in the presence of serum proteins. Quadruplex-stabilized micelles demonstrated enhanced stability suggesting that alterations to oligonucleotide headgroup interactions could be used to tune micelle stability. Therefore, we engineered stabilized micelles with an oligonucleotide extension and have shown that the addition of an antisense oligonucleotide leads to micelle destabilization and cargo release. The ability to control particle stability with antisense oligonucleotides represents a new paradigm in the design of programmed nanoscale devices, which we envision will find utility in the development of novel diagnostics and therapeutics.